You may be surprised to learn that the Accord, established in the wake of the horrendous Rana Plaza Bangladesh apparel factory disaster, has reached a milestone: Some 150 apparel companies from 20 countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia have signed the legally-binding agreement.
There is good news — perhaps even a “defining moment”– in the longstanding, tragic issue of working and safety conditions in apparel factories in many parts of the world:
. Unlike “softer” earlier concessions, the Accord commits the apparel retailers to ensure that “where safety issues are identified, repairs are carried out, that sufficient funds are made available to do so, and that workers at these factories continue to be paid a salary.”
. The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety has appointed independent inspection companies to roll out a robust enforcement program at 1700 suppliers/garment factories in the coming months. The inspectors are empowered to issue public reports on the results of these inspections.
. The Accord has also been signed by two global trade unions, IndustriAll and UNI, and numerous Bangladeshi unions. Clean Clothes Campaign and Workers Rights Consortium are among several influential NGOS are witnesses to the Accord. The International Labor Organization (ILO) acts as the independent chair.
. Moving closer to a key apparel point-of-purchase — eight colleges and universities, Georgetown University being among the latest — now require their university trademark licensees that sources, produce or purchase apparel from Bangladesh to sign and implement the Accord.
. And just today comes the announcement that five global clothing brands and retailers have become the first contributors to a new fund raising $40 million for victims of the Raza Plaza factory disaster. (See “First Companies Give to Fund for Victims of Bangladeshi Factory Collapse,” Jim Yardley, New York Times, 2/23/14 nyti.ms/1e8tsvZ.)
Clearly, there is momentum building on protecting and advancing apparel supply chain workers. It also includes diverse initiatives such as the personal and working conditions programs delivered in the HER program (see “Bangladesh Garment Tipping Point Interview” http://bit.ly/M55jLn) and Knights Apparel’s “Alta Gracia” living wage commitment for its workers in the Dominican Republic. (See “How many apparel consumers will help ‘Alta Gracia’ pay its employees a ‘living wage’?” http://bit.ly/1h6WD13)
The “better angels” of the capitalist system — cooperative companies, labor organizations and NGOs — are, at last, addressing a visceral globalization issue. Will enough apparel consumers join them? (See “The Bangladesh Tragedy: The Tipping Point From Hell,” Chain Store Age, http://bit.ly/1fyJSu7)